On Aug. 29, Netflix released its newest original series, “Narcos,” a cocaine fueled drama that gives a taste into the dark side of magical realism and a view of history that has never been told before. Prepare to be thrown into a whirlwind of drugs, sex, money and violence at the hands of one of the DEA’s most notorious criminals of all time.
“Narcos” follows Pablo Escobar’s climb to power during a time when cocaine was rising to prominence. We see the drug cartels of Colombia in the 1970s and 80s come to fruition and manifest a degree of unfathomable violence as a result of their businesses. The narrative unfolds primarily through the perspective of DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook); however, we also get an inside look into the cartels, and most interestingly, the mind of Escobar himself.
First things first: This new series comes with a warning.
While the show itself is founded upon real events, the story is fictionalized for obvious reasons, even going so far as to define magical realism in the opening credits: “Magical realism is defined as what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.” Bold red text is then followed on screen, ominously reminding the audience that “magical realism was born in Colombia.”
José Padilha, producer of the series, stated in a panel on July 25 that he drew on the classic mob drama “Goodfellas” for inspiration when determining how he wanted the story to be portrayed. This played a major role in the decision to employ an omnipresent narrator via Murphy, allowing Padilha to move through an extremely complex story with many defining characters at his own pace. Padilha also chose to employ the use of actual archival footage, which is carefully woven into the story line. This feature gives the series a slight documentary style feeling to it. For one thing, new Escobar is much more suave then original Escobar!
The show begins with the somber voice of Agent Murphy as he gives an overall picture of the political and sociological climate of South America, while comparing the technology of the present day to the archaic means which were used to bust traffickers at the time. Catching the bad guys back then was not at all an easy task!
Viewers also get reminders of the infamous “Just Say No” speech given by Nancy Reagan during a moment when most of the country was focused on the anti-communist movement. Queue up Escobar.
Escobar is played by Brazilian actor, Wagner Moura. Moura’s acting truly comes to the forefront once Murphy has set the stage. He gives a commanding performance full of raw emotion and confidence that reflects upon a man who is in a personal struggle to define himself.
Moura takes us on the journey of Escobar’s small beginnings in trafficking to the gargantuan operation that spanned the globe and made Escobar one of the richest men on the planet. He succeeds in keeping you guessing what Escobar’s next moves might be, all while being tailed throughout the drama by Murphy and his partner Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal, who played Prince Oberyn on “Game of Thrones”).
“Narcos” reminds us of the far reaching and destructive implications of the drug trade. The true cost of drugs demands to be put into our frame of reference and that image is quite sobering. In a time where we in our own country are struggling to normalize drug laws (Legalization of Marijuana/MDMA Trials to combat PTSD), it isn’t hard to see why such a show has gained so much popularity. Following on the heels of hit shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “Weeds,” our fascination with the illicit has yet to be quenched.
Be prepared to binge because the hype is real! Netflix has approved “Narcos” for a second season.